Critical Mass
REG 04 - 09 - 2010

Volume and form play the primary role in defining space in the Gasometer City project by Coop Himmelblau. The project is a mixed-program, adaptive reuse of former gas storage tanks. Starkly contrasting the existing brick forms with a post-modern parasitic tower afixed to the second tank, Himmelblau pays homage to the site's history as well reformulating the space for today's benefit and tomorrow's growth. Beyond the context and the concept, the project successfully defines the public, semi-public/private, and private realm; incorporates views, natural ventilation and daylight; and provides a wide program to sustain a critical mass. Public and Private Realm: The first three levels of the project are designated for public retail. Access to the site is gained through the entrance nearest the transit stop. Consumers can travel from the ground floor up two additional stories to a circulation path that connects all four buildings. Up to and including this level is a public realm that caters to non-residents and residents alike. The retail includes restaurants, grocery, banks, fitness center and consumer shopping - all the amenities residents are likely to need. Access to the private residences is gained through private elevator shafts. Underground parking access below-grade caters to residents and visitors. All spaces are linked together by the central light well that extends through the center of the cylindrical gas storage silo to the ground floor retail. Views, Ventilation and Natural Light: The central light well for all four siloes improves the quality of life for residents and shoppers by allowing natural daylight to pervade down to the ground floor retail. Above the retail center dome can be found a green roof for at least one of the siloes. Residents have introspective views into the central court as well as outward views to the surrounding context. The arrangement of the residential blocks allows for natural air and light to supplement any active systems installed in the building. Program: The wide and varied program generates critical mass of activity to sustain a lively environment. There are a number of user groups who take advantage of this space throughout the day and night. Residents have access 24 hours. Visitors come by day to the retail and entertainment areas. Passers-by enjoy the unique architectural composition of the four siloes, parasitic tower and media outlet across the street. The facade of the siloes reinvents Renaissance components of organization and composition. The rough treatment of the lower retail levels becomes more refined in the residential piano nobile and upper service/mechanical levels along the height of the facade. Building materials, fenestration and formal articulation respond to the refinement and scale of the various sections.

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